Theme: Mercy and Grace
This week’s lesson teaches us the reasons why we should serve the Lord.
And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’
Another lesson in the parable is that God cares for people more than for things. Why is it that the owner of the vineyard gave those who had labored only one hour the same amount as those who had labored all day? Was it not because he knew they needed the denarius?
When we read the story carefully we notice that not a word of criticism is spoken against those who were not hired in the morning. When the master came and asked them, “Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.” (vv. 6-7). It seems they had been willing to work, were eager to work and undoubtedly needed work. But they had not been hired. So we are to understand that the owner hired them not for what he could get out of them in just a few hours, but because they needed the work and that he paid them the full denarius for the same reason. The owner was not thinking of his profit. He was thinking of people, and he was using his ample means to help them.
How different this is from the older son in the parable of Luke 15! He was angered because the father was rejoicing in the return of his younger brother. He should have been rejoicing too, but instead he was thinking only of how his brother had wasted the inheritance (Luke 15:29-30). The older brother would have been happy if the property had come home and the son had been lost! As it was, the reverse was true, and he was unhappy. God is just the opposite. He does not love us for what we do for him.
So Who are we like? Are we like God, serving because we love God and not for what he can get him to do for us? Are we like God in our estimate of others, evaluating them in terms of their worth as beings made in the image of God and for fellowship with God and not just as tools for production? Or are we like the unhappy workers or the disconsolate older brother?
And speaking of the older brother, I cannot help remembering that his story appears in a chapter of Luke that contains three parables of something that was lost: a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son. In each case the object remained valuable in the mind of the owner in spite of its lost condition. We can imagine an owner of sheep who might write off the loss of one sheep lightly. “After all,” he might say, “what’s one sheep when I still have ninety-nine? The loss is only one percent. A businessman has to expect a certain percentage of loss if he wants to run a business.”
The woman might have said, “I’m just not going to bother about one lost coin. It is one of ten, but I still have nine. I’ll be happy with them.”
The father might have decided, “Well, my younger son is gone. It’s sad, but such things happen. I’ll focus my attention on the son I still have.” That is not what the owners or the father did. He longed after his prodigal son, and in the first two parables the owners diligently searched until the lost object was recovered.
What is the explanation for their behavior? Only that the object had value to its owner even though it was lost, and that the owner was determined to recover it again. In all these parables, including the parable of the workers in the vineyard, God values what is lost and seeks it. In the story of the workers it is God himself who goes out to hire them, early in the day, throughout the day and until the very end.
Shouldn’t we who have been found by God have that same love for others who are lost? And shouldn’t we tell them that, if they are lost, they are valuable to God even in their lost condition. If you are lost, you may be utterly worthless in your own sight, seeing only the ruin you have made, but you should learn that you are valuable to God because (unlike yourself) he is able to see What you were created to be and what he can yet make of you.
Why, apparently. did the owner hire the workers throughout the day?
What lesson do we learn about God in this parable?
How does the parables of the lost things relate to the parable of the vineyard?
Read the account of the lost son in Luke 15. Contrast the attitude of the owner of this vineyard with that of the older son in the lost son parable.
Who are you more like in this parable—God or the unhappy workers?